The 50-Year Pendulum


Change is like a swinging pendulum. 

Long ago, my grandmother said a person was not grown until they were at least 50-years old. It was a statement that was difficult to understand at age 25, age 10, or even as a 5-year-old who was more interested in thinking about how funny his father's large shoes looked on his small feet and what a great song "Talk To The Animals" was as it played on the record player, than what it really meant to be at least 50 years of age.

These days, new music is saved to servers on a minute by minute (if not second by second) basis, as independent uploads surpass perhaps anything the recording industry could have imagined 40-plus years ago. The business of music is alive and well and has moved into "singularity" mode alongside the literary self-publishing industry. There is a constant inflow and outflow of ever-increasing information piping through a system of invisible signals carried by underground cables beneath earth and oceans and bouncing off satellites in space. I rarely think about this while driving down some country highway or farm-to-market road near where my grandmother once lived, even as I pass by cell phone towers. However, it does sometimes influence me to turn off the XM satellite car stereo, silence the smartphone, and tune in to the sound of the tires rotating down the road.

But, there are these moments when I am reminded of the waves moving through the air at increasing capacity, which the naked eye cannot see without assistance. These waves carry glimpses of the possibility of a future unknown to me, waves carrying perceived permanence of a big-data-information-filled past from which there will be no escape for any of the children whose lives are posted, shared, and recorded for the world to see before they have grown up enough to to be able to determine what kind of life they want for themselves. This data was at one time shared through photographs that were passed on to them when they were -- "old enough."

Now-a-days, the more information that is saved and archived through voluntary participation either by ourselves or by others, the greater the risk seems to become of us enslaving ourselves with invisible data chains. But don't fret, an imagined dark future of what will be done with all of this terms-of-service-agreed-upon, currently business-controlled information is probably just my internal delusion engine running a bit out of control this weekend. After all, this country, founded by immigrants, could have been founded without privacy -- couldn't it? I mean, some day we wouldn't popularly assume we were always native to these lands, propose a border wall to keep out the very way we came into being, or selectively discriminate by religious affiliation -- would we? Fifty years ago we wouldn't have, 25 years ago we wouldn't have, but what about 10 years ago or even 5 years ago? What point has the pendulum reached today?

Of course, at 5-years old I would not have thought of myself as a multicellular organism whose tens of trillions of cells operate together to form what I think of as a conscious me, either. But, I'd almost be willing to bet there was someone over 50 who was thinking about a future I couldn't see back then: someone who had lived long enough to see the full swing of the 50-year pendulum. Someone, like my grandmother.